The election may be over in the race for Lyons Township Republican committeeman, but the bitterness remains.
On Saturday, after four tense days of counting and waiting, all precincts finally were counted and incumbent Tony Peraica of Riverside won by a mere 125 votes. Peraica had 2,900 votes (51 percent) to 2,775 (49 percent) for Michael LaPidus, a 28-year-old newcomer from Brookfield.
"It's great victory," said Peraica. "I am thrilled about it. And I look forward to reaching out to those who did not support me to try and get them to work toward reform and good government in the western suburbs as well as county wide as we look forward to the general election."
Committeeman is a party position rather than a governmental office. The township committeeman is responsible for organizing partisan activities in their township for their party. They also choose precinct captains and election judges.
But it does not look as if Republicans in Lyons Township will be working together any time soon.
"I could not in good conscience support him for either County Board president or commissioner," LaPidus said Monday. "He is a parasite in our party. He is just a divisive, vicious human being.
"He's been a Chicago Democrat all his life and the Democrats kicked him out. We're going to build on the momentum and spirit of this campaign. Our group is going to make positive changes in this township and county."
LaPidus criticized a last-minute campaign piece in which Peraica calling LaPidus a Trojan horse candidate and unfairly linked him with incumbent County Board President John Stroger. LaPidus said that he will be filing a complaint with the Illinois Board of Elections.
Peraica was just as blunt. He charged that LaPidus was merely a front candidate for a host of powerful insiders who were upset when Peraica knocked off incumbent Republican County Commissioner Al Carr four years ago. In that same election Peraica was elected Lyons Township committeeman.
Among those backing LaPidus were State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont); former State Rep. Eileen Lyons; former State Sen. Thomas J. Walsh, who is a lobbyist for Proviso Township; former Chicago alderman and longtime political heavyweight Ed Vrdolyak, who contributed $1,000 to LaPidus's campaign the day before the primary; and Republican county commissioners Maureen Murphy and Liz Gorman from the southwest suburbs.
Also backing LaPidus were Brookfield's former village president, Bill Russ, and the VIP Party of North Riverside, which made an in-kind contribution of $4,000 to LaPidus' campaign. In 2005, Peraica publicly supported Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey over Russ during that village's bitter election campaign.
According to Peraica these forces poured money and out-of-township resources into the race in an attempt to defeat him. Peraica charged that political insiders were using LaPidus to get back at him.
"These are people who don't like to put themselves on the front lines," said Peraica. "They like to use proxies. They like to use other people as unsuspecting shills."
Peraica cited Vrdolyak, with whom he shares Croation heritage and whom he supported in Vrdolyak's race for county clerk in 1988, as someone who was trying to back at him.
"We were able to defeat him in Cicero, which was his fiefdom, and I'm sure he didn't take that kindly," said Peraica, who backed current Town President Larry Dominick over incumbent Ramiro Gonzalez.
"He represents bad government, and I'm not sorry we were able to extricate the residents of Cicero from his claws."